Is God Consistent in His Moral Standards? Does He Have to Be?
Both the Torah and the Qur'an reveal that God met with Moses on the mountain. In the Qur'an this is contained in Surah 7, and in the Torah in Exodus 34. In verse 6 and 7 God said to Moses:
"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."
In his own words the LORD says that He is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty."
So in the same revelation in which he says he's merciful and gracious, he also says that he abounds in steadfast love. Those attributes are related, of course. If he is merciful, then he also abounds in steadfast love. If he is gracious (compassionate), then he also abounds in steadfast love. Who are we to question his self-description?
But he has given us the gift of reason, and he tolerates our attempts to make sense of his ways. He even invited it when to the prophet Isaiah he said, "Come, let us reason together, says the LORD." (1:18) So we exercise our reason to see that the LORD is consistent in all ways and all things.
HE said that he "loves the foreigners." Those are his words, so this is not irrelevant. That means that he loves the foreign women taken into the community, and by his own moral standards he would not allow them to be used, abused, or sexually exploited.(Deut. 21:10-14 and Num. 31:18) Rather, to prevent the men from ravaging them, he instituted laws to protect and provide for them under the circumstances. (All men are and were desperately sinful and many of the ANE men were warped by their lusts to exploit women. Even today we are warped by sin. But God's laws proscribed the Israelite men's proclivity for sin because He is consistent.)
*War is a special category that is violent by definition. It leaves many victims and requires special considerations for all parties. You didn't even raise the subject of war prior to my paper, and why I didn't write about it. When you introduced it in yours, it was outside of the scope of Num. 31 and Deut. 21, which issues we were still resolving. But I proved that in keeping with his other laws, Yahweh was too consistent with them to allow for the sexual exploitation of women.
What about Deuteronomy 22:28-29? Again, God is consistent with himself. God cared about women and never would have condoned their sexual exploitation. Rather, he made special laws to protect them for occasions when any warped Israelite men might have otherwise exploited them. Since rape is both stealing and adultery (plus coveting), He would never have condoned rape.
From one hadith it seems obvious that some Muslims think that the man who committed rape should always be killed. But contrary to modern standards, that would be the worst case scenario for the unbetrothed woman. Why? Because from then on, no other man would have married a raped woman. Zero. (It is still that way in most Islamic societies.) Thus, the raped woman would be confined to an unmarried and childless state for the rest of her life in shame, with only her father to protect her until he died, and maybe her brothers. In those times (and still today in many Islamic and Asian/African cultures), to be conscribed to singlehood and childlessness with the cultural shame of rape, was for the woman almost a fate worse than death. And for her family too it was almost a fate worse than her death. The best case scenario in that case was a law to require the man to marry her, to provide for her, to protect her, and to give her children in HONOR. Thus she could live her life in honor rather than a life alone in shame. That's what Yahweh's law did for her. It provided for her honor and wellbeing, when there were no other good options. (So to kill the man who raped her would have been the least compassionate thing for the victimized woman.)
God was consistent in his mercy and compassion for women.
*A millenia later, Jesus exceptionally modeled the ideal compassionate and dignified treatment of women, especially scorned women. He elevated the dignity of a repentant prostitute, for example, and a demon-possessed woman, and many others. As the perfect exemplar to humanity he was consistent with his Father's love, mercy, and compassion, which was consistent to begin with. So Jesus is the person that Christians want to imitate and emulate.
Finally, because of our universal proclivities for sin and lust and exploitation, etc., Jesus gave himself on the cross to bear the judgment we deserve and justify us with God--even for wanting to act out our sins. That was the ultimate demonstration of love. That's the primary lens through which we see God Almighty, the loving Father.
On Deuteronomy 22:28-29 from Steve Schlichter
The fact that this is case law that starts with “If a man rapes a virgin….” indicates to us that that the law is passing judgment on those that are inclined to this behavior. Even without knowing the penalty, it is impossible to say that Mosaic law allows rape, since it condemns it here and prescribes a penalty. That is the first issue.
The second issue is that the penalty needs to be understood. Exo 22:16-17 adds that the Father must allow the man to marry his daughter. He is the adjudicator. This penalty is more lenient than the rape of a betrothed virgin but the penalty is not light. The man who rapes a betrothed virgin is put to death. Deut 22:25 because she is already another man’s wife. The penalty of fifty shekels is nearly twice the value of an indentured servant (Exo 21:32). The law places the wishes of the daughter in the hands of the Father who has the ability to disallow the marriage. Any assumptions of cruelty or indifference on the part of the Father is a projection. This lessens the legislative burden placing the burden on the Father while also providing a penalty that inhibits those inclined toward such a crime. If the woman was violently raped then the Father has the ability to disallow the marriage but he has to weigh that option with the loss of future that the daughter will encounter since she will be unlikely to get another husband. The burden of this loss is placed on the culprit if the Father deems that is better for the girl.
The conditions of a rape vary. A modern rape could be statutory - a 19 year old having sex with a 17 year old. Or it could be ambiguous - drunken teenagers have sex and it is not possible to determine whether it was consensual. This is a different culture and we need to also understand the varying conditions that could be surrounding the rape. Those are weighed by the Father. If he agrees to the marriage then the man is obligated to care for the girl as a wife (without possibility of divorce) on top of the 50 shekel penalty.
Isaiah 13:16 and Zechariah 14:2 are descriptions of what will occur. They are not prescriptions nor endorsements. When a people or a nation suffer judgments of God at the hands of other nation, it is as a part of his passive will, not his direct will.
Example: If you drink too much alcohol then I will not allow you in the house and you will be homeless. This certainly does not indicate a desire to make someone homeless. It is, instead, a description of the consequences they will suffer and that another will permit them to suffer.
On Deuteronomic laws by Dan Lewis
A whole range of Deuteronomic laws demonstrate God’s care for both people and animals, including:
- Laws prohibiting adultery, murder, theft and perjury in the Decalogue (5:17-20)
- The Sabbath laws, weekly, annually, even seven years, and every 50 years, providing time of rest for both humans and animals
- The laws of justice for community leaders and magistrates (16:18-20)
- Laws concerning witnesses in prosecution (19:15-21)
- The provision of asylum cities for manslaughter cases (19:1-13)
- The personal rights of female prisoners (221:10-14)
- Humanitarian laws concerning straying or fallen animals (22:1-4)
- Humanitarian laws concerning fugitive slaves and the forbidding of mistreatment or oppression toward foreigners (23:15-16; cf. Ex. 22:21)
- The permission for travelers to eat the produce from farms along the way (23:24-25; 24:19-22)
- The law of divorce so that the divorced woman was free to marry again (24:1-4)
- Laws forbidding the taking of a millstone or other personal items for collateral since they were needed for family sustenance (24:6, 10-13)
- Laws for prompt payment of wages (24:14-15)
- Laws forbidding kidnapping (24:7)
- The law forbidding vicarious punishment (24:16)
- Laws protecting the weak (24:17-18)
Two types of law are present in Deuteronomy, apodictic laws (absolute laws, such as, “you shall” or “you shall not”) and case laws (variable laws beginning with an “if” clause). Many if not most of these laws are case laws. Dt. 22:28-29 is a case law that is preceded by Dt. 22:23-27. A married woman and a betrothed virgin were classed the same, even though in the latter case the marriage had not been completed. If a man seduced a betrothed girl, both were liable to execution. However, mitigating circumstances might alter the death penalty. If the seduction occurred within a town, the execution was carried out for both, because it could be assumed that the union was not a rape. Had it been a rape, the girl would have screamed, drawing attention to her violation. If the union happened in the country, the girl was given the benefit of the doubt. Had she screamed, there would have been no one to hear her, so she was exonerated.
*Additional commentary by Claudine Mamo and others will be posted independently in this blog.